Foster care is full of loss. No matter how a case ends, even if it's the "best case scenario" someone will lose. Someone will lose the kids they've cared for. Sometimes foster parents don't mind sending certain kids home. Often times when a case ends and we don't adopt the children we can at least squint and get excited for their future. We can justify it with "they're with family", "they love their mom", "they will be provided for", etc. Of course we're equally aware of times when TPR happens and we know there are parents who despite demonstrating a lack of parental ability to the degree that they've lost their children love their children and will be processing the loss.
And the kids. They have no choice in the matter. They always lose. Yes, they may have a chance at a better future but they usually still love and miss their birth parents or family of origin no matter how bad the environment. Or, they may be able to reunify and are happy about it but they lose the foster parents they'd grown to trust and love too.
In our case we also have our forever kids to consider - they and the foster children lose those surrogate sibling relationships that were as real as any to them.
Yesterday I was in a snooping mood. I don't know how it started - I think it had to do with trying to find the social security numbers for #7 & #8 so I could do my taxes but then I ended up looking into all of my past cases. (BTW, this morning when I woke up my husband had laid out all his hidden receipts for mie on the kitchen island. I told you I couldn't wait much longer. Good thing too because after I wrote a fairly nasty letter to their caseworker for not getting back to mie in 6 months I asked my FAD worker and he had it to mie in 20 minutes...yes!).
#1 & #2 breaks my heart. They were supposed to be adopted by their relatives and shortly before the adoption should have taken place the family acknowledged they couldn't afford to adopt (or assume permanent managing conservatorship - PMC). So the kids bounced around to different family members and finally ended up being placed for adoption through the state. I thought we were ok with losing them until this all happened. They loved these relatives and I knew these relatives loved them. We didn't have a choice so we had to be ok with it.
When they came back up for adoption we were asked to adopt them. Of course when we said yes they basically said "just kidding". That sucked. Even more so though it got me thinking of this loss and what the kids are going through. Before I thought I knew what their life would be like. Now I have no idea. Worse yet, when they kids left I didn't send them with all the pictures I had of them. I had A LOT of pictures. I had given their parents some during the case and so since they were staying with family I didn't think it would be necessary to print them all out again. These kids should have had pictures of their childhood maybe missing the two months they were with us if their mom and dad didn't keep the ones I gave them.
But now they are with a new family. A family like us who didn't know them from any other kids prior to accepting their placement. A family who knows that we exist because these kids were in foster care so they must have had foster parents but they don't know who we are. I'm not sure how much they got regarding pictures from the birth family. I don't know if #1 and #2 will have anything to hold onto from their past. Will they have any pictures from when they were young?
I contacted the caseworker when I found out they would be adopted by another family. I asked her to work with me to get these pictures to them whether that meant giving the adoptive family my contact information, having me print them all out and the social worker sending them to the adoptive family, whatever it took to get them these pictures. I would love to have a relationship with that family ongoing but even if they couldn't have that at least we could give them the pictures.
The social worker never contacted me back.
It breaks my heart. These kids are losing some of their past and it doesn't have to be that way. These adoptive parents will one day be asked to provide pictures of these kiddos when they were young and they won't have them, I do. And yet I don't have any way to give them what I have.
We have a loss story with each of our kids. We thought we'd have a long-term relationship with #3 and ended things with that in mind - we haven't heard from them in just shy of a year. We not only lost the relationship with #3 but with his parents too who we'd grown to love. Our son is most affected by this one as well - he brought it up just this past weekend.
#4 is forever ours but we have lost her brother with very little hope there will ever be a relationship. Through no fault of the kids. Furthermore, birthparents have informed mie they will not make their visit in April and that means they will have missed two consecutive visits - technically they will lose the right to have any contact with her moving forward.
I wonder what ever happened to #5 & #6. We didn't have a bond with them like the others, but I wonder what happened with their case. I wonder what happened with their brother who was being hidden in OK, out of the jurisdiction of the state of TX. I wonder if they were reunited. I wonder if they were adopted. I wonder where their case is now.
#7 & #8's mom has had less and less contact with mie. I want to ask her if we can meet up to let the kids play, but she's already ignored a few of my previous messages and I'm afraid that she'll ignore this one too. I don't want that for my kids. I don't want that for her kids. The reality is that's what we've already got.
And now, due to my snooping, I have a glimpse into #9 & #10's life due to open access to myspace and facebook pages. There is some pretty incriminating stuff on there and some of it is hard to see (like #9 drinking from an "empty" beer bottle when she was an infant) but at the same time I'm glad to have those pictures so she has something as she gets older (there are nice ones too). I'm also glad I get to see the play-by-play from mom's perspective because it helps mie remember that she loves them and whether or not she gets them back I know this is hard on her - she is facing a loss now and may in the future. It's a sobering thought and helps mie keep my mommy attitude in check (when I see things like her posted picture admittedly drunk holding her baby but "it's ok"). You know, its easy to judge when I'm not faced with the fact that there is a real human behind these kiddos. A woman who needs help making good choices.
And then there are stories like this that make mie burst into tears and remind mie just exactly why the foster care system is needed no matter how imperfect it may be. Because there are people like that out there who really should never ever have contact with their kids.
And for some kids it's too late, so I have no guilt for acting on the side of caution in being a foster parent.